“He could not have said exactly what he was hearing. A baby’s sweet babbling? A hesitant declaration of love? He does not know. But the sound moves him as if he might discover in it something eternally important, something unlike he has ever known before, something that is, at the same time, hazily familiar. When the kuy is over, his throat hurts for a long time, as if there is a pebble stuck in it that he cannot swallow. He breathes carefully so that nobody can hear him cry.”
Azhigerei is growing up in Soviet Kazakhstan, learning the ancient art of the kuy from his musician father. But with the music comes knowledge about his country, his family, and the past that is at times difficult to bear. Based on the author’s own family history, A Life at Noon provides us a glimpse into a time and place Western literature has rarely seen as the first post-Soviet novel from Kazakhstan to appear in English.